Countdown – six months left to the Eastern Partnership Riga Summit
Under normal circumstances, today we would be just reviewing expected deliverables and taking the remaining steps towards them. However, the current circumstances are not normal anymore.
Russia is challenging the fundamentals of Eastern Partnership policy. It is questioning the right of Eastern European states to freely choose their foreign policy orientation, as well as the level of ambition and the final goals they wish to achieve in their relations with the EU.
A variety of tools is being used to achieve that – from political and economic pressure to using leverage of energy, massive propaganda and even military intervention. We have found ourselves in the different security environment, first of all.
Moscow is trying to show to the international community that it has a legitimate right to decide on everything that is happening or should (not) happen in the neighboring countries and beyond, treating these countries simply as a territory that used to belong and still belongs to Russia.
As a territory, where no European values, no democracy nor rule of law, no reforms, and no market economy is welcome. Because the ultimate goal is not just to reestablish the geopolitical empire, encircling Russia with loyal emisovereign authoritarian countries. The ultimate goal is to challenge the world order, its rules and the international security system, established after the end of the 2nd World War.
The means to achieve that is to consolidate and promote the alternative system of conservative authoritarian and protectionist norms, rules and standards, where openness, trade and integration into the global system are perceived as a threat, bringing damage, and where fundamental principles of international law are treated as a non-necessary rudiment.
The main tactics with regard to the West is to weaken the Western institutions and their policies, and ultimately make the West acknowledge the existence of the spheres of influence as well as the logic behind. Because might (power) and determination are the only characteristics that matter in the mythical Eurasian world Russia is aiming to create.
This is precisely why impact of conflict in Eastern Ukraine goes far beyond Ukraine or even far beyond the region of Central and Eastern Europe – Ukraine today is the front-line of liberal democracy and market economy. The challenge is a global one; the way we will deal with it or fail to deal with it today will shape Europe, and the world, tomorrow.
Even if main targets of Russia’s current actions are our neighbors and especially our associated partners, their main target audience is in the West.
Russia wants us to drop our joint (agreed upon by the EU and six partner countries) Eastern partnership policy, as well as to stop supporting our partners in their ambition to undertake serious reforms and modernize their countries.
Russia challenges values and principles behind our policy of political association and economic integration; the same values and principles upon which the very project of the European integration is based.
Giving Russia a say in the EU internal policies might be perceived by some as a way to accommodate it by giving recognition it wants.
But history shows, that this would only provide them with a new platform to push the line of compromise even further.